Good Rejection from Graywolf Press (Yet Again)

Sad times at Ridgemont High, my friends. In the middle of my last workshop with Aimee + probably my last workshop ever--tragic irony sucks!--I scanned my emails, only to discover this rejection which kinda breaks my heart. I fucking love Graywolf Press + I felt very strongly that my collection of short stories would appeal to them because the language is beautiful, the collection is international in scope (Peru, Argentina, Burkina Faso, America, Canada, Japan, Mexico), deals with legitimate social and cultural issues, uses strong, spunky + smart female characters, creates art that is greater than just art for art's sake + most importantly, offers a series of cultural narratives that haven't been written yet, or at least not overwritten in any meaningful way. Saying nothing of the fact that I've either lived in those countries as a Peace Corps volunteer + English teacher or I've visited them + that I've already published many of these stories in good literary journals. And yet, none of that shit matters.

I'm totally bummed, frustrated, a potential victim of pigeonholing? Would my collection have been more seriously considered if every story was about China? Or written from an African point of view? Is my collection too all over the globe? Do you know how many collections of short stories I've read in the past 10 years that don't have a thematic thread at all? Why does Nam Le get to write stories in Iowa, Colombia, Japan, Vietnam? Granted, he's probably a better short story writer than I am, but I still honestly feel like the stories in my first collection give the readers a beautiful, powerful, touching piece of the world that hasn't been written enough, or at all. For example, how many short stories have you read that take place in Burkina Faso? Or that follow the story of a letter traveling from West Africa to California? Or that deal with race + class in SoCal? Or that are about a Peruvian pepera who falls in love with a tourist she drugged? A hipster who falls in love with a hallucination in Buenos Aires? An obscure fiction writer whose greatest fan is a porn star? Two strangers who meet with the help of their love beepers in Tokyo? A girl who falls in love with a painting in the Art Institute of Chicago? Two teenage basketball players in Kansas who fall in love? A nerd who gets his revenge by inventing a paint bomb that covers his attackers in paint? A woman who cheats on her husband with the female tango instructor in Argentina? An insurrection of teenagers that loot Muncie?

I'm not pretending my stories are technically perfect, because they're not perfect. But on many levels, they are unique. They're touching, powerful, beautiful, slightly off-beat stories about the human condition, + I hoped that a press like Graywolf would want to publish something fresh, socially-conscious + international like this. But they didn't. And now I'm bummed.

Anyway, here's the gracious letter:

Dear Jackson Bliss,

Thank you very much for submitting " . . . " to Graywolf Press.

There's a lot to enjoy here in terms of the diversity and range of the stories, and we felt like you inhabited these characters well--you made their voices your own. I'm afraid that we did feel that stylistically there were several stories that seemed a bit out of place, such as " . . ." or " . . . " Despite the strength of some of the work here, it didn't feel cohesive enough as a collection. So we've decided against this.

Sorry to disappoint, but you've done some good work, which deserves recognition. Thanks for thinking of Graywolf, and best of luck in finding a good home for this elsewhere.

With best wishes,

The Editors
Graywolf Press

And my response:

naive question, but is removing those two stories too cosmetic to resolve the lack of cohesiveness? just curious.

okay, well, since i'm not expecting a response back since i know you have many submissions to deal with, thank you graywolf press. you're a kickass press + it would have been great to work with you. i just wish i had more books to submit to you, but sadly i don't.

peace, blessings, thanks,

--jackson bliss

Anyway, as much as I admire you Graywolf Press--+ I do, I really do--you had your chance to publish something by Jackson Bliss before I became big + famous + now you've lost your chance forever. It's time we parted ways. But of course now I sound like the dude who says I quit after he's already been fired, which of course, is exactly what happened. My consolation: I get the last word.